Hi, I’m Lisa and I am setting up this site as a journal to document the process of converting a minivan, specifically a 2012 Honda Odyssey, into a camper van and then to log my adventures. My goal is to have a camper van that will not only be good for weekend camping trips but also have the ability to sustain longer, much longer, road trips. The purpose of the van will be to explore and photograph North America. However, I will start in my home state of Florida.
This will also be the site where I will post and share my photography. Photography is my passion. Being able to travel around Florida and the USA taking photographs really excites me. My photography can also be seen at lisa-malecki.pixels.com and lisainstpete.com
About me: I was born in Jamaica and migrated to Florida with my family in 1980. I became a US citizen in 1997. I am married and have 2 children who are now in college. I have been told I am having a midlife crisis because I am selling my nice peppy Volvo to buy this minivan at a time when women my age are selling the van to buy the sporty car. But I feel ready for adventure.
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So it turns out I am not such a reliable blogger. I have not been camping since my last post when I went camping to Fort Clinch last fall. I have kept myself busy working in labor and delivery getting my required year of current experience so that I can start travel nursing and practicing my photography locally. In a way it feels like I’ve been in limbo. I have been researching travel nursing, and locations and trying to imagine what it will be like and if I will do well with it. Going back to L&D has not been difficult and I found I have actually enjoyed being back at the bedside helping moms birth babies. Not actually delivering the baby as I did in the past is okay. I’ve done that. Now it’s time for me to move on to something else and develop my photography hobby and travel, letting my career take the back burner and power the ride for awhile. I hope no one is offended by my saying my L&D nursing career is back burner stuff, but at this stage in my career..it kinda is.
Now that I have just 2 months left until my 1 yr mark, I have contacted 2 (so far) recruiters and am going through the process of on-boarding with them and reviewing actual offers. One question I am asked is where do I want to go? What a hard question. Everywhere, Anywhere (almost). I would like to venture west, Utah, Arizona, California and then north to Oregon, Washington, Alaska, just to name a few.
I am preparing to travel by spending money! Shocking, I know. A new deep cycle Renogy battery for my van solar system and a new laptop are on the way. I ordered an Acer Predator gaming laptop that should be powerful enough to power photoshop which is a known power hog. Since my last post, I have also upgraded my camera body to a Canon 5d mark 4. I have been very busy with my photography taking frequent day trips to my favorite locations, Circle B Bar Reserve and Fort Desoto Park, and Northshore Beach.
With so much stuff on my mind, sometimes sleep is uneasy and fitful. Still working on conquering fear of the unknown, inertia, and extra calories.
Yay, fall is finally here in Florida and for me that means it is cool enough to go camping again. For the first excursion I decided to visit Fort Clinch and Little Talbot Island State park. These parks are on the North East corner of Florida and Fort Clinch actually overlooks Cumberland Sound and you can see into Georgia from there.
On this excursion, my husband Ron came accompanied me as we happen to also be celebrating our 29th yr anniversary. It’s a good test to see how well the minivan accommodates 2 adults. The first evening we took a long afternoon walk on the beach next to the fort where the big activity is fishing and hunting for the elusive sharks teeth that are reputed to wash up here. After a while of searching unsuccessfully for sharks teeth, I asked a guy that was fishing if he had seen any and he pulled out this pill bottle half full of teeth that he had found that day.
After sunset we made it to the campground where we discovered that the sites are actually a short walk from the parking area. This was a bit of a hassle as it meant we had to carry stuff back and forth from the van when at that point we really just wanted to chill. Ron made a fire and we had a nice evening.
After this, we explored a different area of the coast and continued to search for shark’s teeth which sort of became an obsession with a contest about who could find the first one.( I did).
Also picked up a few shells.
We took our morning coffee to the beach and watched and I photographed the birds.
Headed back to the campsite after watching the sunset on the beach. Once again getting back after dark. This night we just had dinner cold and set up our chairs next to the van and didn’t bother with the actual campsite. Much more relaxing especially after a long day exploring. My iphone step counter claims 15,033 steps. As an added bonus, we saw a nice shooting star.
I just love the sea oats.
The last day, before heading back to St Petersburg, we stopped at Little Talbot State Park. This is a totally undeveloped barrier island and it was beautiful.
I forgot to bring my tripod from the van so I tried to set up a long exposure using my backpack as a tripod. That didn’t work too well.
He caught pompano and redfish.
How does the turtle know where to cross???
Selfie of Ron and I on our 29th year anniversary. I was happy to have his company on this excursion and I hope he will come along again in the future. (Plus he carried my heavy camera backpack). Two of us in the van was actually more comfy than we thought and we slept in both mornings even though I thought we would be up to see the sunrise.
My camera batteries are getting a bit old now (2 yrs) and with heavy use, they are not holding a charge as long. I thought I had them both charged when we set out but soon discovered that one was not. I had to run the van for 30 mins to recharge the battery. Since then, I bought a Tripp-Lite 200 watt inverter so that I will be able to charge the battery off of the solar power source.
Also, I’d rather van camp at sites where I can pull directly up to the site.
Plus I bought an updated version of my favorite camping guide. I am always ready to benefit from the research of those who have gone before. My old version was from 2000. The new one is c 2016. The author is Johnny Malloy
Time for a change and a new photographic challenge. I decided to play with night photography and long exposures which in general go together. My photographer friend, Jeff and I met in Downtown Tampa in the River Walk area where the bridges and surrounding areas are lit in ever changing beautiful neon colors. It was a photographers dream and I was happy with my first effort.
Tampa has created a family friendly area with fountains that are also beautifully lit and well chlorinated so that children and adults alike can jump in and cool off on those warm summer nights.
The palm trees are also lit and together this all created a magical night scene that I didn’t know existed until this shoot even though I live just 30 minutes away in St Petersburg. I have been to this area in the daytime but never before at night.
There are several bridges that cross the Hillsborough River. Here I was set up to take a long exposure and several bikes with lighted wheel spokes rode through creating nice light trails.
I was totally impressed by the beautiful colors
Okay, this was an accident but I liked it for the balls of light effect. Focusing is a bit tricky at night and I had to take the camera out of auto focus to get correct focus.
Having had so much fun in Tampa, I decided to go to downtown St Pete to try some night photography there. In the above photo, I was getting a bit bored with editing and liked this funky wave effect on the reflection.
I liked it so much, I went all out 🙂
This is downtown St Pete reflected in the Vinoy Basin of Tampa Bay.
Fun with reflections.
I’m not sure if anyone here is interested in camera settings etc. If you are, please let me know in the comments below and I would be happy to share.
So I have decided to start a site on Fine Art America to try and sell some of my photos. The link above will take you there. To this end, I have been uploading …uploading… more uploading. But apparently, uploading is not enough, one also has to promote and market which is where I tend to fall off the wagon.. It has traditionally been difficult for me to put myself out there and market myself and my images but I am trying to get over that.
Question is, why do I want to sell photos apart from the obvious answer of to make some money. There are a few reasons, it helps to give me a purpose for going out and taking more pictures. I have so many images and sometimes I find myself taking even more images of sometimes the same thing, always trying to get a better shot. Then I go home and tweak and edit and sort and play with these images and sometimes eventually get to a point where I think I have a really good image. Then the thought is, OK I have this really good image, now what the hell do I do with it? Is it really good or am I totally biased and way off the mark. Who is ever going to see this but me and maybe my husband or family member that I can beg maybe to come over to the computer and actually look at it. Most of the time they just want to look up from way across the room and say, “Oh that’s nice,” or ” I really can see it from over here. ” One might say personal satisfaction of creating a great shot is enough and in general, it has been but it would really be nice to have the external validation of someone liking my picture enough to plunk down cold hard cash to buy it.
Plus it would be really nice to be able to buy new camera gear with money I earned using my camera gear. Camera gear is expensive and it is a little hard to justify buying even more of it for just a hobby.
So to this end, I have decided to share m site on good old Facebook and see if I can work on getting my name out there and maybe even sell some images. Wish me luck. If anyone reading this has any tips for online photo sales, please share.
Tonight, I am going to be going to Downtown Tampa to do some night photography with my photo buddy, Jeff.
If you like camping in FLorida, you will be happy that camping /hiking season is almost among us. In the northern parts of the country, folks may be thinking of putting away the shorts and packing it up, but here in Florida this is when we start thinking of going back out in the woods. In the meanwhile, there is the beach which is where I have been hanging out in this heat. At least when it gets so hot you think you might melt, you can strip off your shirt and go for a swim. My favorite beach haunt is Fort Desoto in Pinellas county. For a $5.00 fee you can check out various parts of the park, all with a slightly different flavor. Here are some of my recent photos.
The less traveled path to the beach. It is a bit of a walk and because of all the recent rain, much of the path is under water but only by a few inches.
Wildflowers on the path to the beach. It was windy on this day and trying to get macro shots of these tiny wildflowers was quite a challenge. The purple one in the middle is called forked bluecurls. I don’t know the one on the left and could not find it online. On the left is a cactus.
The water has been very clear this summer and cooler than usual for August. I rmember in years past, I would go into the water to cool down and it seemed almost as hot as the outside air. On this day, it was actually a bit on the cooler side and I almost did not want to go under.
There are usually a variety of shells. Here is a partially buried sand dollar in the surf. As I walked along this almost deserted stretch of beach with my camera, I noticed a few signs prohibiting nudity on Pinelas county beaches and noticed some folks in the distance. I had been taking lots of photos ( as usual) with my tripod and long lens mostly trying to get a nice panorama. Finally, I figured out these folks were nude and were probably getting perturbed by me and my camera so I turned around and headed back.
Two black bellied plovers showed up for me on a different stretch of beach.
Sitting on the sand, I saw 3 vessels lining up for a shot. In front is the tug boat managing the barge (brown) in the middle. The Carnival cruise ship heading into the Gulf of Mexico passed in the rear.
From the fishing pier I got shots of the pelicans feeding. There were millions of tiny bait fish and a feeding frenzy was in progress.
At low tide, beautiful patterns are made in the sand. Those 2 heads you see in the distance were the only others in sight. How awesome is it that in the middle of summer you can almost have the beach to yourself. Most beach goers are at the “swimming areas”. Its all a huge swimming area.
So as the day was coming to an end, I sat at the edge of the beach delaying the moment of departure. The light was reflecting on the gentle waves. As I was sitting there trying to catch a moment when the waves made a nice pattern on the sand, 2 other photographers came by and we had a nice conversation about photography, gear, locations etc. A great end to a wonderful day.
And for the finale, there was a partial rainbow.
If you like my photos, I have started a site on Fine Art America where some of my photos are posted for sale. The photos can be printed on canvas, metal, phone cases, mugs among other things.
I finally took the opportunity to experiment with long exposure photography at Ft De Soto. I have photographed this pier before and knew it would be a good place to start. With a fair amount of trial and error, I got this and several others. This was taken using the Lee Big Stopper filter at ISO 100, f:8, 6.9 sec. The filter comes with a diagram of how long to leave the shutter open but I couldn’t remember if I had the “big” stopper or the “super” stopper ( had the big). Standing in the summer heat on the beach trying to set up long exposure shots while sweating half to death and standing on an ant hill added to the challenge.
I liked the ghosting of the snowy egret under the pier.
I like how this looks and B&W also.
Of course, since it is Florida in the summertime, huge clouds form and thunderstorms threaten. Happily for me, it did not rain on my parade.
The water was warm and clear and great for swimming. I risked taking the camera out into the waves to get a few shots from behind the waves. Here there are large sections of beach where there are no crowds.
Part of the brick ruins in the water. Another uncrowded section of the beach.
Since I had my tripod and lots of time and privacy, I set up for some beach portraits using the remote shutter release (clenched in my left hand). Usually, I am the one behind the camera. The remote shutter release is a bit finicky and may take a bit more practice.
I wanted a reminder of this absolutely beautiful day spent practicing my favorite hobby in one of my favorite places.
Stately Washington palms line the road exiting the ruins.
I haven’t photographed the actual ruins at Ft De Soto in awhile, so that will have to go on my to do list next time I am here.
That’s my new motto having just finished reading a book called the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer which I highly recommend. That photo is also on my i phone lock screen to help me remember. Now that I have young adult offspring (not children) it’s highly recommended that I figure out how to let go as I really don’t have any semblance of control and any idea of control I thought I had was just an illusion anyway. Harder to let go are feelings of guilt or responsibility when they experience roadblocks.
Professionally, I am in the process of letting go of a prior role and embracing a new one. This is not proving to be as hard as I thought it would be. I have done this before in my past and a lot of the work there has already been done. Ego can not get in my way. I am not what I do.
Not much about minivan camping here as it is fairly brutal camping weather here in Florida in the summer. I have gotten some new camera filters that I am going to be experimenting with doing long exposures and such. One of the things I love about photography is is always new techniques to explore. I may take a break sometimes but always come back.
I have not posted here for awhile because I have been busy…Chasing Dreams. Or you might call it making a bunch of stupid crazy decisions. I have resigned from my job effective June 15 and start a new job June 18. This represents a concrete step towards my goal of traveling the country, at least that is what I keep telling myself. After a week of orientation, I plan to take 2 weeks off so there will be a short break between the two.
I have to keep reminding myself of the reason for doing this, after all, I have (had) a great job as a nurse practitioner/midwife in a lovely office working 4 days a week which gave me 3 day weekends to go camping etc. The doctors and my coworkers and staff were all a cohesive group and I enjoyed going to work most days. My new job will be as a labor and delivery nurse and is actually the same job that I started my working career back when I was 21 yo and fresh out of college for the first time (30 years ago). Anyway, the reason that I am doing this is to regain L&D nursing experience so that I will be eligible to take up travel nursing.
I have decided that the only feasible way for me to travel at this time in my life and still be able to work is to do travel L&D nursing. The opportunities for traveling as a NP/CNM were just very limited and were not materializing for me. This decision has not been an easy one to make. There is going to be a significant financial hit at least for the next year and there is also a pretty big hit to the career path and ego. Fortunately, the family is supportive although I think sometimes they are trying to avoid me 🙂
I have been trolling the travel nursing blogs and websites and working on licenses etc in preparation. California in particular has been a challenge, so far I have sent them 2 sets of fingerprints and they still don’t seem to have them.
Of course, some new camera gear (filters) were found to be necessary to improve my landscape photography as in the foreseeable future I should be needing those more. Mother’s day in May and my birthday in a few weeks provided a good excuse to buy some new gear.
As Florida heats up for the summer, minivan camping trips become more challenging due to hot weather. The Kissimmee Prairie SP is a beautiful place that needs to be enjoyed in the cool of winter. It was a beautiful place but there was no shade on the trails (it being a prairie) and Milo and I ended up cutting our stay a little short because of that. But I get ahead of myself. Happily, there was shade at the campsite although I was not there to enjoy it.
The scenery was impressive with vast open spaces (the park is 54,000 acres) and lots of hiking trails. I carried several lenses with me as I did not know if I would see wildlife, scenery or wildflowers and I was glad to have it all. Unfortunately, that made my pack so heavy, I decided unwisely to not carry as much water. I know, it was stupid. Especially when I made a wrong turn and made the hike that much longer. A mistake probably fueled by mild dehydration as I gave Milo quite a bit of the water.
There were lots of wildflowers.
I really liked this shot so it got its own space, 🙂
Not much in the way of wildlife to be seen in the afternoon heat.
I tried some new photo techniques with varying degrees of success. The process is called focus stacking and it requires a tripod to be successful. The idea is to have the photo in good focus front to back and requires several images that are exactly the same except for point of focus and them combining them in photoshop. I lugged the tripod with me causing some entertainment for the camp neighbors when the tripod, being top heavy, caused the entire pack to open up and spill all my equipment, camera, lenses, everything onto the ground. ..right in front of them. I had to go back and repack, using a bungee to secure the tripod to the top handle. As I was hiking, I would think, I need to use the tripod for this, but I did not because it was so much work to get it secured. So, all that for nothing but extra weight to carry at the detriment of not enough water.
I made it back to camp at sunset. No clouds this evening but the sky was still pretty.
The night was uneventful, I had cold leftovers from the night before (curry chicken and cauli-rice) and wine. I tried to read but could not focus on starting a new book loaded onto the Kindle. As is common with the state parks here in Florida, the sites are too close and there is no site privacy. My neighbors to one side were plentiful and loud and the mom must have been a schoolteacher because her voice could probably be heard across the prairie as she recited boy scout code. I briefly considered playing some loud Eminem rap but they probably would not have gotten the point and I would just really come off as the “bad guy”, Fun thought though, I settled for Sade, quietly.
Hiking Sunday morning was much cooler starting out and I got some nice shots of the Eastern Meadowlark singing. I got a not so great shot of a crested caracara which was nice.
There were also several deer. I was in a different area that had recently undergone a controlled burn and the colors were stark and beautiful. The wildlife was also more visible than usual as seen in the deer shot. It was trying to hide!The green growth re emerging against the rust and browns added to the beauty of the scene.
This shade at the trail head was the only shade but this time I packed the water bladder and we did not suffer. Milo swam and drank from a few puddles halfway through which helped him a bit. I also packed the monopod instead of the tripod and this was a good compromise. Milo and I had to walk by a 7 ft alligator on the path so I put him on a close leash and put me between him and the gator which happily worked. Milo is 26 # so probably would be in the size range for a good sized gator. We were probably about 12 ft. from the gator which was awake and alert. I did not linger long in that area and kept Milo on leash for the entire hike.
I liked the illusion here where you can barely see the white shell road so the sign looks incongruent.
I was back at the trail head approximately 1 pm and the original plan was to rest, eat lunch and do another shorter hike before leaving. By that time it was about 87 degrees with no shade on the trail so I decided to head home 3 hrs away. I think I would be fine with enough water but I worried about Milo getting dehydrated out there. He was a trooper and did not complain. He drank regularly and was able to cool off in the puddle. Needless to say, he slept all the way home.
Things to remember:\
Mono-pod rather than tripod.
Don’t underestimate water needs
Need more shots in focus stacking sequence for best results.
Some photos from recent solo camping trip to Gold Branch SP.
I was tired from the work week and a bit unmotivated to pack up and leave on Saturday. After several delays, I finally set off about 11:30 for the 3 hr drive North. Well, apparently the 1st weekend in April is when many of the snowbirds head North as well and my drive was complicated by heavy traffic making it take 4.5 hrs. By the time I got to my site, I was ready to get out and move. Milo and I headed out for our first hike. Immediately I felt the decompression begin and I realize, Yes, this is worth it.
A section of the Florida Trail which runs from the Everglades to Georgia runs through the park.
This state park is known for its ravines with spring fed streams leading into several lakes. The water is crystal clear and cold.
Names:Virginia Thistle, Dragon wood, Virginia Thistle
I brought my macro lens this time and captured some spring wild flowers. I am clueless about the names but have just downloaded an app to aid me with identification. How nice to have info so freely available.
Then back to the campground which where I have the worst spot possible. I console myself with the knowledge that I actually spend very little time at the site. The site is crowded and loud with no site privacy. There are other nice sites available but my lack of fore-planning got me the very last spot. I rehydrated my chile and sweet potato and relax by the light of my candle, read and went to bed.
Sunday was overcast but no rain thankfully. The sun peeked out a few times. Milo and I walked a lot. As usual, when I got away from the campground, I also found solitude. I was surprised at how few birds I saw. This looked like great marshy habitat and I could sometimes hear the birds but they were not to be seen ( and definitely not photographed by me).
I took pictures of wildflowers instead. Really happy about having the macro lens.
Back at the campground, everyone has cleared out and I have it almost to myself. I love having Mondays off work so I can stay Sunday nights. With someone’s leftover wood, I made a lovely campfire.
Finally, a few birds. I got going before coffee and got a great blue heron with a huge fish and an American bittern. Then I went back to my van and make coffee and breakfast.
Making coffee takes a minute to boil the water and brew using the french press. There is no rushing this process.
Then I pack up to leave. Unfortunately, yesterday while I was out and about, someone took off with my camp chair and cook pot that I was using to give Milo water. I admit the site looked abandoned with no tent and no van… but still, the chair was cheap but my cook pot was part of a nice set.
My friend Kit called me as I was driving around scoping out more ideal campsites and we met up in the park for a short visit. She lives and was camping nearby so we got to compare van camping notes and the pups got to visit.
Thankfully, the ride home was the expected 3 hrs ish with no traffic pileups.
I was happy as always, that I went camping even though at the beginning of the weekend I was unmotivated. Even though I did not see as many birds as I thought, I was happy to play with my macro lens for the wildflowers. I had a lot to ponder and getting away helped me to process my thoughts. It was nice to check out Kits Odyssey and meet her sister.